Casey eyes 2021 for his Valspar Championship defense
March 21, 2020
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Paul Casey goes back-to-back at Valspar
Instead of chasing his third consecutive win at the Valspar Championship this week, two-time defending champ Paul Casey is still trying to sort things out -- just like the rest of us in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
On a Friday conference call with golf writers, Casey was asked a variety of questions, including his thoughts on a potential compact major schedule once play resumes ("I'm fine with that. I'll suck it up”) and the potential of playing without fans (“If that's what needed … at least we're still out there playing”).
Here are his extended answers on the disappointment of not being able to defend this week, the new normal that we’re living in, concern for his parents, and the importance of golf in the current climate.
‘Guess I’ll still be going for three in a row’
Less than two weeks ago, Casey was preparing for THE PLAYERS Championship, to be followed by the Valspar Championship. The things changed quickly.
“We went from probably a space of 48 hours from being slightly concerned to suddenly canceling events after the NBA [suspended] their season. Obviously, it’s disappointing not to defend at Valspar and now suddenly the situation is no longer about golf. It’s a whole plethora of things now. It’s worrying about people’s safety, people’s health, the economic impact of that. Look at somebody at Tampa, there’s probably going to be people who probably get sick, lose jobs, loss of income, a whole bunch of other things. It’s weird one. It’s a really strange one. It’s a strange thing …
“Hopefully the impact of not having this year, the 2020 Valspar Championship, doesn't affect too many people. There will still be money going to charity, which is an amazing thing, that [tournament director] Tracy West and her team can still donate some …
“I guess I'll still be going for three in a row [next year]. Hopefully we can get the field that we were looking at getting this week, which would have been maybe one of the best field they've ever had. Everybody will just want us to get back going again. We obviously don’t know how long this is going to be, but people are going to be craving golf and I know I'll be craving golf and I'll be looking forward to getting back out there. Hopefully when whenever it happens, the 2021 Valspar Championship will be as good if not better than it was going to be this year.”
Paul Casey's winning highlights from Valspar
‘Trying to figure out what to do’
Casey was asked how he’s passed the time in the last week without a tournament to play and defend.
“I just did a podcast with Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz, so it should probably take another week before they edit that and get it out. I've been playing football -- or soccer as you'd call it -- with my little boy outside a lot, riding my bike. My clubs are still packed up in my Club Glove in the garage; I haven't dusted them off yet …
“Whisper Rock’s still open, but I can't go down to Papago and practice where the Arizona State team practices because I'm not allowed down there because they've closed the facility to all non-students, which is understandable [Casey played collegiately at Arizona State]. One of the golf clubs I’m a member at in the Valley has had a member and his wife test positive for coronavirus, so very limited access down there.
“So I don’t know. I’m trying to formulate a plan. Right now it’s teaching the kids. It's wake up and we have a schedule of breakfast time and then reading time and then creative time and TV time and all that kind of stuff, so that's basically what I'm doing. I’m trying to figure out what to do. This is unfamiliar, this is unlike anything. I’m a big fan of time off, and you've talked to me in the past. There’s been times I've taken 3-4 weeks without hitting golf balls and it's quite common for me in the offseason, but there's always been a prospect of going back to work. So I’m trying to balance it out, pacing myself because that’s really the unknown.”
‘Technically, can I get there?’
Although he lives in Arizona, Casey has family in his native England but suspects he won’t be able to see them for quite some time.
“My parents were in South Africa until about two days ago, they were just down on holiday. You know my dad is South African; they were down there visiting friends and family and it was very strange because just a few days ago, things obviously multiplied drastically rapidly.
“My brother who's in New York, we were messaging backward and forward thinking mom and dad need to get out of South Africa. I mean not that anywhere is particularly safe, but they'd rather surely be at home, so the last few days were a bit strange, making sure they get back safely, making sure they weren't stuck, what happens if suddenly UK airspace is closed or something like that? And then when my parents got home, I imagine the fridge would probably be empty and they’re right in … the crosshairs of danger, shall we say. They’re in their 70s.
“I don't know -- it's weird and if something were to happen, technically can I get there? I can't, really -- which is just the same as everybody else on the planet. I’m no different. My wife, her parents are elderly as well and have underlying health issues, so yeah, the focus is very much been on that. Luckily, they’re back home now. I don't know if that makes them safer or not but at least they're back in their own home.”
Paul Casey surprises a young fan at Valspar
‘A great place to be’
Casey said he has no hesitation in playing golf during the current crisis – as long as the necessary precautions are taken.
“I love some of the new rules, the new norm that has been adopted. In fact, I was just talking to Colt Knost earlier on his podcast. He’s all pissed off ‘cause he's obviously a great putter and now he's frustrated that the guys are raising the cups up. You know, what passes as a holed putt now? If it just hits the cup, does that mean it just goes in, does that mean you can just hit the cup as hard as you want and it’s a holed putt? He’s all frustrated by that, but I love the fact we can still play this game and we don't have to get that close to anybody to do it.
“I don't want to put anybody at risk and assume the golf courses are going to be in their usual manicured state. If people choose not to come to work … so the greens aren’t maybe the same kind of manicured way they normally are, the bunkers aren’t raked -- I'm totally fine with that. I don't really care. I'm accepting to play on any kind of golf course if that's still cool.
“Yeah, I’m not going to handle the flag; I’m not going to pick up my partner’s golf ball. If you’re riding in a cart, separate carts. Or you just walk, just pick up your bag and go.
“All the rules of the golf clubs I’m a member at have been relaxed. I’m obviously a member of some nice clubs in the Scottsdale area. There's no more valet, guys are parking their cars in the car park and changing their shoes and just walking to the first tee. We've got no food in the clubhouse; they don't even want anybody in the clubhouse and that's totally cool. People are still out there playing. People aren’t getting close to each other. I’m fine with that. I think it's a great place to be.
“In fact, I’ve never seen so many people outside walking. Weather’s great in Arizona right now. They’re hiking, they’re walking on the streets, they’re riding bikes, getting out there and doing stuff, which I think is amazing. And the golf course is the perfect place to do it. So I hope they stay open. I really do. I’d be sad if they closed. As I said, I don’t care what state they’re in – the fairways can be long, the greens can be long, the bunkers can be unraked. I couldn’t care less. I think it’d be a great place just to be out on the golf course, away from people.”